Quick actions of student

Quick actions of student, staff save heart attack victim’s life at school
Posted on 11/30/2018

by Cheryl Shuffler

This Thanksgiving season when retired Burke County Public Schools teacher Johnny Childers counts his blessings, a student and staff members at East Burke Middle School are on the top of his list. Childers, now a substitute teacher, had a heart attack at East Burke Middle on Friday, Nov. 16. He and others credit the quick actions of a seventh grader and several teachers for saving his life.

Childers said, “I am so blessed to have been at EBMS Friday morning when I experienced heart failure. I was feeling perfectly normal and looking forward to a great Friday morning start. My only recollection is that I felt faint and kneeled down beside the teacher's desk in the seventh grade workroom.” 

Enter seventh-grade student Dalton F. 

“I walked into homeroom and noticed a table had been moved,” Dalton said. “I looked down, and I saw Mr. Childers swaying. He was sitting up, but then he fell back.” Dalton said he reached for Childers’ hand and asked if he was OK. When he didn’t respond, Dalton said, “I yelled at the top of my lungs for help, but no one heard me.” 

At first, Dalton was afraid he might get in trouble for yelling, but he knew someone needed to call 911. “There’s good panic and bad panic,” Dalton said, “and what I did was the really good way to panic. I ran out in the hall to get help.” 

Math teacher Kelly Shook heard Dalton’s screams and the two ran together into the room. When Shook saw Childers – who happened to be one of his former teachers and basketball coach – on the floor, he then prompted Dalton to run to get more help. Dalton found math teachers Jaclyn Reid and Rebecca Ramsey and teacher assistant Beth Wright who rushed into the room. Reid immediately called 911, Ramsey administered CPR on Childers and Wright retrieved the Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

East Burke Middle Principal Lora Austin said it was a team effort with science teacher Michelle Hass, school resource officer Kristie Puckett, school nurse Mandy Morrison and counselors Heather Smart and Vanessa Robbins also running to Childers’ aid. The adults in the room sent Dalton and other students to a different classroom while they tended to Childers. Others in the school worked to clear the parking lot and hallways for first responders and the ambulance to get to Childers.

Austin said, “Many other EBMS staff members who didn’t have students at the time ran over to see if they could help and quickly took over with getting students off the buses and into the building safely. All of that happened in less than 30 minutes. Dalton, the staff, the first responders, and the AED saved Mr. Childers’ life. The doctor’s said that the swift work of these fine Raiders made the difference.”

Childers said he doesn’t remember anything about the incident except for kneeling and then coming to in the hospital. He said, “Later in the day, the cardiologist who treated me at the hospital said it is likely I would not have survived this event if I had not been at the school. This special place had the equipment and people in the building with the ability to restart my heart and breathing if they worked quickly and according to their training.” 

As soon as he learned of the incident, Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam went to East Burke Middle School. He met with staff and Dalton. Putnam said, “The quick thinking of Dalton and the staff at East Burke Middle School, plus the forethought of our Board of Education to equip all of our schools and buildings with the life-saving AEDs gives this story a happy ending. Dalton and the teachers and staff at East Burke Middle are heroes in my book. Their actions saved Mr. Childers’ life, and we wish him a speedy recovery.”

Dalton said of meeting Putnam, “Dr. Larry Putnam said I did a really good job and that I actually saved his life.”

Dalton’s mom, Heather Powell, who works security at East Burke High School, said her son went home from school sick on Wednesday and stayed out of school on Thursday. “He told me he was glad he was able to go back to school on Friday and to be there for Mr. Childers,” Powell said of her son. “I had a very proud mom moment on Friday.”

Dalton and all of the staff involved in saving Childers remained at school on Friday. Childers said, “What can I say about my terrific colleagues who had received training but, more importantly, didn't hesitate to use it and perform remarkably under pressure until EMS arrived.” They were given time to talk about and process what had happened. Austin said, “We have a great staff here. They were able to deal with it and go back into the classroom and teach.”

The school counselors have had conversations with Dalton to check on how he is processing the traumatic experience. Robbins said it was Dalton who was concerned about the teachers. She said, “He had to go check on the teachers to make sure they were OK.” Smart said, “That’s Dalton. Always thinking of someone else.”

Dalton likes lunch period the best in school, but also likes science and math, and for when he grows up wants to mesh the two into a computer science career. He likes tinkering with circuits and battery switches and is interested in building drones for the military.

Childers taught in Burke County for 38 years at Hildebran and East Burke Middle. He returned as a sub three years ago and had just started a long-term sub role at East Burke Middle.

The two are looking forward to a reunion. Childers said when he sees Dalton again, he plans on giving him a big hug. He said, “I will forever be grateful to Dalton for his essential role in my being able to continue this wonderful life.” Dalton looks forward to seeing Childers, too. He said, “I’m going to be glad to see him. He has a way with other people. He’s nice and will help anybody. He has been a good influence on a lot of people.”

Childers is expecting a speeding recovery. He said he had two new stents placed in his right coronary artery on Friday, and will have a, inter-cardiac device placed in his chest Tuesday. In an email to the East Burke Middle School staff, he wrote, “I am writing this while resting comfortably in my hospital room with my precious wife, Beverly. Have a blessed Thanksgiving, and we hope to see you all soon.”

Beverly Childers is a retired teacher assistant with Burke County Public Schools, and the couple’s son Travis Childers is the media coordinator at Heritage Middle School, their daughter Christy Slutsky is a pre-k teacher at Hildebran, and their daughter Julie Patton is an educational talent search counselor for Western Piedmont Community College and is assigned to East Burke High School.

“Our family will have a special Thanksgiving this year,” Childers said. 

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